Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Pope gets new personal Twitter account; questions can be tweeted with hashtag #askpontifex

Tweet, tweet, tweet: the Vatican on Monday announced that Pope Benedict XVI will join Twitter with the handle @pontifex.

Pontifex was chosen for the pope's personal Twitter account because it is not just Latin for pope, but also means bridge-builder, something the Vatican wants to do through social media. The pope has had a Facebook account for some time, and he has tweeted before, too, though that time he was using the Vatican's Twitter account.

@pontifex will be the pope's personal account. Another handle that Vatican had reportedly considered was @BenedictusPPXVI, but officials instead opted for something that was linked to the office of the papacy. It makes sense: linking it directly to Pope Benedict XVI would mean a new Twitter account would have to be created each time a new pope entered office.

For now, Pope Benedict XVI has slightly more than 100,000 Twitter followers, although we know he has some 1.2 billion followers in a different, though probably more standard sense of the word.

Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican told a news conference that the papal tweets will be spiritual, not about how his latest trip to Arby's, and the pope will tweet whenever he wants. Although we doubt the pope will actually post the tweet himself, Burke added that "all the pope's tweets are the pope's words. Nobody is going to be putting words into his mouth."

The first papal tweets will be answers to questions tweeted with the hashtag #askpontifex. The pope's tweets will be posted in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Arabic and French. Other languages will be added in the future.

Pope Benedict XVI himself will push the button to post the first tweet on Dec. 12. Despite Burke's assertion, in the future most tweets will be written by aides and he will simply sign off on them.

It seems the tweets won't be coming from a mobile device. The Vatican said as a precaution, only one computer in the Vatican's secretariat of state will be used for the tweets. When the pope tweeted for the first time in 2011, he used an iPad app.

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